Beyond the Big Five: Good Homes for Indie and Arthouse Content

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Illustration: Ka Young Lee. All rights reserved

This is the second piece in a month-long series that will explore a number of alternatives to the “Big Five” streaming services (Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Apple, Hulu/Disney+) that have licensed or are open to licensing Canadian content, in English and French, making them viable options in terms of expanding traditional partnerships. While some will prefer to buy from a producer’s library and others will fund or co-fund projects, all are viable options to showcase and spread CanCon across the world. 

The data contained in the series is provided by Wendy Lynn Bernfeld, a digital-sector consultant, frequent jury member, and founder of international content and licensing consultancy Rights Stuff.

Today, we explore good fits for arthouse and indie film and TV content. 

> Read the other articles in this series


Thanks to an unprecedented number of viewing platforms, there’s never been a more exciting time for creators to break from mainstream storytelling and fulfill their artistic visions. For Canadian producers and sellers looking to expand their reach outside of the country, indie- and arthouse-focused SVoD platforms and OTT services create even more viable opportunities to engage with audiences. 

For clarity on the terms and abbreviations used throughout the article, refer to our report ‘Making Sense of the Media Distribution Multiverse: Paths to Consumers, Key Concepts and Definitions

Mubi (London, UK; San Francisco, USA; regional offices)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: North America, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, India, South-East Asia at time of press, with more to come, as the platform is expanding;
  • Business model: Core SVoD service with additional library for renting older films, distributor, producer, some other models/rights used as applicable (TVoD/day-and-date windowing);
  • B2B model: Usually revenue sharing; limited co-production funding.

This global film site formerly known as The Auteurs focuses on international cult, classic, independent, and arthouse content across the drama, comedy, doc, adult animation, foreign language, and cinematic horror genres. The platform incorporates social media, a database, and online magazine The Notebook within its website. It rotates 30 films per month, with the option for viewers to also rent previously streamed titles. Users can also access MUBI Go, which offers a weekly cinema ticket for films not currently on its SVoD service, combined with VoD. Although the platform is open to taking content in its original form (including foreign language with subtitles), it only recently improved financial deals with sellers to begin adding MPAA studio library deals, including Sony and Paramount. Other international suppliers now include Miramax, Studio Canal, Pathé, eONe and Wild Bunch.

Filmin / Filmin Kids (Barcelona, Spain)

> Visit the Fimin website

> Visit the Filmin Kids website

  • Countries served: Spain, Mexico, Portugal;
  • Business model: SVoD, TVoD, funding;
  • B2B model: Flat-fee SVoD; revenue sharing; originals and some co-productions.

This innovative, upscale Spanish-language platform and its kid-friendly spinoff have been around since 2007 with the goal of controlling and monetizing the online distribution of their own films. There are currently more than 10,000 titles on the main service, including more than 1,000 shorts. Filmin (which falls under the EuroVOD umbrella) boasts the largest VoD catalogue of any European company, and when it snaps up foreign, non-Spanish content, it focuses on local and high-end indie and arthouse, as well as some commercialized film and series across all genres.

UniversCiné / Uncut / Vod.lu / Sooner (Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium)

> Visit the UniversCiné website

> Visit the Uncut website

> Visit the Vod.lu website

> Visit the Sooner website

  • Countries served: France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands;
  • Business model: SVoD with some recent day-and-date windowing and PVoD, TVoD;
  • B2B model: revenue sharing for TVoD; flat-fee for SVoD.

The French independent film platform curates features, series and shorts across all genres and boasts a catalogue of more than 11,500 films for distribution in TVoD, SVoD and in some cases EST. Until recently its mandate was mainly European films (UniversCine lives under the EuroVOD umbrella), however recently it appears interested in outside content for potential SVoD and other platforms. That could make French-Canadian content especially appealing, although it’s worth noting other foreign-language properties (including English) usually require subtitles and sometimes dubs. There are some exceptions, which would be reflected in the deal price.

Filmbox Live / Filmbox Arthouse / Film1 (central Europe; New York City, USA)

> Visit the Filmbox Live website

> Visit the Filmbox Arthouse website

> Visit the Film1 website

  • Countries served: Turkey, USA, central Europe, Netherlands, Brazil, Latin America;
  • Business model: SVoD, linear and basic pay-TV;
  • B2B model: (Relatively low) flat-fee for SVoD and pay-TV, sometimes buying other windows at same time; non-exclusive library deals.

These platforms live under the SPII and SPI International umbrella (the company is a seller and distributor which also runs Filmbox linear and VoD), and through that synergy they have a mix of content purchased uniquely for those services as well as content under other distribution windows. Filmbox Live also grabs content from the linear channel Filmbox Arthouse, including indie and arthouse films from around the globe. Its non-funded content typically includes features, series and shorts across a wide list of genres, although it is uninterested in lifestyle-reality content and only has limited space for docs and horror.

Cinetree (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Netherlands;
  • Business model: SVoD, TVoD library films;
  • B2B model: Flat-fee for SVoD; revenue sharing for TVoD; limited originals funding.

This feel-good Netherlands SVoD platform curates 15 indie and foreign films (including French-language ones) per month for short windows, then offers TVoD for its older catalogue. Its content is generally uplifting, with warm stories targeted at the human spirit. The platform includes a variety of genres including drama, comedy, sci-fi, foreign language, adult animation and kids and comedy, but it avoids lifestyle-reality programming and horror. Cinetree has funded limited originals in the past, but so far it has not branched out with co-productions.

World Movies Network (Sydney, Australia)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Australia
  • Business model: Free TV / AVoD for World Movies Network, TVoD and AVoD for parent company SBS On Demand
  • B2B model: Flat-fee license for older catalogue; flat fee for free TV; revenue sharing for TVoD

World Movies Network recently transitioned to a free TV and AVoD channel that brings international content to an Australian audience. It actively seeks out non-Australian and non-English-language library content, including French-language content, which can pave the road for French-Canadian titles. In general the platform is interested in all genres of French-language content across features, series and shorts.

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Amber Dowling
Amber Dowling is a Toronto-based freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines and websites across Canada and the United States. A previous president of the Television Critics Association and former editor-in-chief of TV Guide Canada, she’s covered all aspects of the platinum age of television and the emerging industry for publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, Playback, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Aside from watching too much boob tube she’s a world traveller and mom with a serious penchant for bold reds and stinky cheese.

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